Sometimes an entire meal can be based around a bottle of wine. Creating a dish that best compliments the flavours and style of a wine. Sometimes a fortuitous find that inspires you to create a feast.
We like to throw away the old notion for 'red wine with meat, white wine with fish' rule. For anyone that's enjoyed a seared salmon with a delicate yet earthy Pinot Noir or a steak frites with a powerful, aged, Chenin Blanc knows very well the diversity in pairing food and wine together.
Think of wine as another ingredient to the meal. It's the same idea as when you choose the perfect side to complement the main event like the sauce or even the vegetables that you'd serve alongside the dish.
Here are some general tips when pairing wine with food.
*règle d’or / Golden rules
What grows together goes together.
Match the body of the wine to the body of the dish or the richness of the sauce.
Acid in wine is your best friend in pairing. Having a nice crisp and lemony Pinot Grigio with a seabass is like squeezing a lemon on the dish. C’est merveilleux!
Tannins are good for fatty food. Don't believe me? Try a glass of Malbec and some rich cheeses.
Desert wines should be sweeter than deserts otherwise the desert will over power the wine.
Champagne goes well with everything. Seriously... #Champagne! Something about its structured effervescence, clean acidity, and the balance of its fruity component work well with just about anything (especially fried foods). Next time try some fried schnitzel with a glass of bubbly. Of course you can never go wrong with some oysters too.
blancs / Whites
Sauvignon Blanc: You've probably already heard that Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with vegetables like Aparagus, and on fresh-tasting fish dishes as well. Mediterranean seabass or Chilean Bass, Arctic char, or even seared Halibut. Any white, delicate fish will work well with this grape. Sauvignon Blanc's that are oaked or done in a fumé style (California) can withstand oilier fish like Salmon, Tuna, or Trout.
Chardonnay: This is one of the most versatile and sought after varietals producing light and crisp wines, to heavy, oaky, and powerful styles. Lighter styles such as entry level Burgundy and Chablis are perfect for simple fish dishes such as dover sole, baked salmon, and trout. These wines also have high acidity and a pronounced salinity that pairs well with shellfish, oysters, scallops, or prawns. Richer Chardonnays work wonderfully with sautéed or roast chicken, pork, or even veal with sides like wild mushrooms. In conjunction, plates with creamy or buttery sauces or delicious autumnal vegetables like pumpkin or squash are all sensible approaches to pairing with this exceptionally versatile grape.
Viognier: Works with similar dishes as richer Chardonnays do, but it can handle a little more spice. Since Viognier has a pronounced florality ripe fruity characteristics, try it with stir fries and spicy chicken wings.
Riesling: Dry styles of Rieslings pair best with oysters. The high acid and ripe citrus notes compliment the salinity and tanginess of the mignonette that's usually served with the oysters as a traditional accoutrement. Try these wines with delicate fish too like prawn/shrimp, crab, lobster, or lightly smoked fish like trout and salmon. The sweeter styles of Riesling pair well with spicy dishes that are common in Asian influences and are good with duck as far as proteins are concerned.
Gewürztraminer: This exotically pronounced white isn't to everyones liking but it really shows its nature with spicy food, especially Thai cuisine and spiced Indian curries.
Pinot Grigio/Soave: Most dry Italian whites tend to be elegant, crisp, and easy drinking therefore, they are best paired with seafood based pastas, seafood risotto, simple cheeses, and grilled fish.
Pinot Gris: This is the same varietal as Pinot Grigio, however, it is called Pinot Gris in France. Depending on the style of wine being made, producers will label the grape as Grigio if they chose to do a lighter more acidic style and Gris if the wine is richer, fuller, and more ripe. Since Pinot Gris tends to have a subtle sweetness, it often works better with lightly spiced chicken or pork dishes.
rouges / Reds
Pinot Noir: With young fruity Pinots, duck is often the best pairing but it works well with roasted turkey, chicken, and even seared salmon. Older Pinots are better with game birds like quail and pheasant.
Pinotage, Zinfandel, Shiraz: These wines are best paired with your heartiest meals - rich stews, braises, and tagines, or even with a funky variety of cheeses like blue, aged cheddar, and feta. You can even pair a very oily fish (better if its beet cured) with a young fruity and peppery Australian Shiraz.
Barolo, Tuscan reds like Chianti, Brunello: Italian wines are always best paired with classic saucy Italian dishes preferably from its corresponding region. Barolo is complimented by earthy mushrooms, pasta with truffles, gamey meats, and braised beef. Chianti does really well with lasagnas, roast lamb and veal, beef stews, and classic bolognese.
Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot: Since these wines tend to be very full bodied and juicy, you can't go wrong with a steak or grilled lamb chops. If you're having a blend of the two varietals as is commonplace in Bordeaux, and it's an older vintage, keep the sauces on the lighter side because the natural meat juices are the best accompaniment.
Rioja and other Spanish reds like Priorat: Spanish reds have come a long way and have changed faster than you can say Gazpacho. The styles vary from their soft bodied, gentle tannins, and their delicate fruit that you'll find in Reservas (paired perfectly with lamb, sheep's cheeses, and spiced stews) to styles that are heavier in body and can work well with robust flavours - like a Cabernet or Sangiovese.
Malbec/Syrah: These spicy and fruity wines work well with red meats like peperry steaks and lamb pastas, but can also take on more robust flavours like traditional barbecue rubs and marinades. Don't be afraid to try some spicy sauces since these full bodied wines are powerful enough to withstand some heat.
vins doux / Sweet Wines
Sauternes: Try these deliciously sweet, noble rot wines with incredibly rich Foie Gras, eclairs, or even apple pie with whip cream. These wines have lots of acidity, refreshing the sweetness from your palate and making you want to take another sip... or 5.
Port: The rich chocolaty, fig, and prune like flavours that you'll find in port are classic with a decadent chocolate cake, or, if you're anything like me, a whole box of chocolates too.
Moscato D'asti: These delicious and juicy semi sparkling wines have subtle toasty and bready notes that are compliment with its natural peach, apricot, and baked apple flavours that go well with profiteroles, creme brûlée, and vanilla ice cream with warms poached pears.
O N V A P R E N D R E L A B O U T E I L L E !